Some older fans will no doubt be horrified by the realization, but if you search your feelings you'll know this to be true: it’s been 40 years since we first witnessed the majesty of Star Wars on our screens. And what a long way we’ve come since that first title card appeared before the film now titled A New Hope, which read “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...”
With a prequel trilogy, a sequel trilogy and various spinoffs, Star Wars has become a behemoth of pop-culture. It’s a powerful, immersive and endlessly quotable series with so many in-universe and behind-the-scenes secrets to discover. Can you claim to be a master of these details? Do you know all that there is to know about the first ever Star Wars movie, or are you still a padawan learner?
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, here are 11 pieces of little-known trivia about the film where it all began. Scroll on down to expand your mind, unlearn what you have learned and, as ever, may the Force be with you!
1. Han Solo Wasn't Supposed To Be A Hunk
George Lucas shifted around so many characters while writing his scripts. Some of them are drastically different to their final forms. Case in point: Han Solo.
Dashing, snarky and handy with a blaster, #HarissonFord’s Han Solo is a cool and confident character — generations of boys have dreamed of being like him when they grow up. But in the original scripts, Solo was would not have been as relatable, or as hunky; he was meant to be a green-skinned alien who sported gills. Needless to say, we are glad that this version of Han never made it to our screens.
2. Alderaan Was Originally The Empire's Home Base
From the forests of Endor to the Mos Eisely Cantina, Star Wars has gifted us plenty of iconic settings, but they too were very different in their conceptual stages, and changed quite a lot in their transition from script to screen.
Take Alderaan, for example. Initially, that name was not the name given to the peaceful home of Princess Leia, but rather it was the dreaded capital of the Galactic Empire. Set to feature in several important scenes, the script’s description of this rather grim version of Alderaan actually evokes Cloud City more than the serene spires that we glimpse in Revenge of the Sith. The restrictive budget forced Lucas to shift all of these sequences that dealt with Imperial politics onto the Death Star sets, and the name Alderaan was given to Leia’s home instead.
Plus, even though Luke Skywalker’s home world of Tatooine isn’t referred to by name in A New Hope, Lucas initially considered calling it Utapau, a name that he later used for General Grievous’s hideout in Revenge of the Sith. Nowadays it’s very hard for us Star Wars fans to consider calling that famously sandy orb anything but Tatoonie, but George Lucas didn’t only deliberate over the names of planets…
3. Luke's Name Was Changed Due To Charles Manson
The Force Awakens brought back the concept of a planet-obliterating weapon in the form of the First Order’s snow-covered Star Killer Base. "Starkiller" was also the nickname for Galen Marek, the conflicted protagonist of the once-canonical prequel video game series The Force Unleashed.
Before that, Starkiller was originally meant to be Luke's surname, retained right up until filming commenced on A New Hope, at which point it switched to "Skywalker." And the reason for this change? Lucas reportedly believed that the name Starkiller was a tad reminiscent of Charles Manson’s then-recent murder of Hollywood star Sharon Tate.
Lucas also thought that it sounded a bit too aggressive for a hero. We can’t really disagree with that to be honest — and of course, Skywalker really is a much cooler name.
4. Mark Hamill Owes His Career To Freddy Krueger
Vader may have insisted that Luke had a destiny with the dark side, but young Skywalker would have got nowhere fast without his trusted friend Freddy Krueger.
Yup, before actor Robert Englund donned the prosthetics and killed teens in their sleep, he was pals with Mark Hamill. In an interview with Yahoo, the Nightmare on Elm Street actor revealed that he once auditioned for the role of Han Solo. Obviously he wasn’t successful, and returned home to drink away his sorrows. It was then that a fateful conversation occurred:
"I went home and told a little kid that was sleeping on my couch ... all about [Star Wars], and his name was Mark Hamill... I said, ‘Hey, Lucas is doing this space movie. Maybe you’re right for it. The lead guy’s like a teenager. … So Mark got on the phone to his agent and I think he went up the next day. ... He nailed it, and the rest is history."
By such a strange coincidence, we got our Luke Skywalker. Lucas and 20th Century Fox couldn’t have asked for a better Luke, or a better, or kinder ambassador for the film series.
5. Chewie Is A Double Centenarian
Given that Chewbacca petulantly strops if he loses at Dejarik, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he is of a similar age to Han — however, it was later confirmed that Chewie is roughly 200 years old when he first meets Luke, Obi Wan and the droids. I don’t envy whoever decorates his birthday cake, because that’s a lot of candles to invest in!
6. The Millennium Falcon Has A Pair Of Hanging Dice
If you ever owned a spaceship, how would you ever personalize it? Perhaps decorate the dashboard with ornaments as Yondu does in #GuardiansoftheGalaxy?
Well, it seems that Han and Chewie took a leaf out of his book, and briefly customized the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit with decor you wouldn’t expect to find in a galaxy far, far away.
George Lucas’s previous movie American Graffiti featured protagonist Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) driving a white Chevy Impala with a pair of large fluffy dice from his rearview mirror. The Millennium Falcon was also adorned with dice, albeit of a smaller gold-plated variety. Don’t believe me? Check out the above still; they are hanging above Chewie’s head.
They only appear in the scene when Luke and Obi Wan first see the Falcon in Mos Eisley, and Chewbacca is making preparations for the take-off. Legend has it that the dice were stolen by a production hand and never returned — but there are other theories. Maybe they were just intended as a brief Easter Egg? Or maybe Peter Mayhew was sick of bumping his head on them and threw them away when no one was looking? Either way, their disappearance remains a mystery for fans to this day.
7. Mark Hamill Didn't Realize His Actual Whining Would Be Used For Luke
Tensions are running high when Han, Chewbacca and Luke begin their infiltration of the Death Star to retrieve Princess Leia. A disguised Luke can’t help but air his frustration with his recently acquired storm trooper armor:
“I can’t see a thing in this helmet!”
This line sounds like scripted dialogue — after all, this is spoken by the same teen who earlier whined about the Tosche Station and power converters — but it’s actually Mark Hamill complaining about the costume. He thought that the cameras had stopped rolling! But rather than discarding it, Lucas thought it worked well enough in the context of the scene, and kept it in the movie.
8. Droids Are 'Simply Made To Suffer' — And So Are Their Actors
Throughout #ANewHope, the droid C-3PO is consistently irritable towards his pal R2-D2. It might not seem fair, yet given what actor Anthony Daniels went through during filming, his character's grouchiness might be understandable. Part of the C-3PO costume's fiberglass leg casing shattered during filming, sending shards into the actor’s foot!
Plus, the gold costume was also made of rubber, plastic, aluminium and steel, meaning that it weighed a whopping 50 pounds. Imagine having to wear all that — with shrapnel in your foot — while filming in the desert heat. Truly, the bath that Luke gave him must have felt good!
9. Carrie Fisher Thought Peter Cushing Was Too Sweet To Be Evil
Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin is hellbent on destroying the Rebellion and responsible for the destruction of Alderaan, but Carrie Fisher admitted that she found it difficult to act hatefully towards Cushing in their scenes together since he was such a kind and courteous gentlemen in real life.
Also, Cushing was wearing slippers on set, which made it even harder to take his evil side seriously. His boots never arrived, and his replacements were far too small for him. With costs spiraling, schedules tightening and Cushing’s feet paining him, an amicable compromise was soon reached: the respected actor donned some comfier footwear and Lucas changed his shooting techniques to obscure Cushing's feet from view. When you can’t see his feet, he’s got slippers on.
10. Darth Vader Only Has 12 Minutes Of Screen Time
Darth Vader is, without a doubt, one of the greatest movie villains of all time. So many other franchises have tried (and failed) to come up with such an iconic antagonist. Vader is so beloved that George Lucas made an entire prequel trilogy about Anakin Skywalker. And yet, in A New Hope, we only see Vader for about 12 minutes — with a 125-minute runtime, that's almost just a cameo. In fact, for A New Hope, James Earl Jones recorded all of Vader’s lines in a mere two-and-a-half-hour recording session.
11. Filming A New Hope Destroyed George Lucas's Health
George Lucas's struggles to get Star Wars off the ground have been well-documented, from production delays to budgetary compromises. So high were his stress levels that at one point he believed he was having a heart attack. After a trip to the doctor, he was diagnosed with exhaustion and abnormally high blood pressure; the arduous production schedule meant that Lucas wasn’t able to take the prolonged rest that the doctor prescribed.
The good news is that when Lucas finally took that rest — jetting to Hawaii with Steven Spielberg — they spent their time conceptualizing a project together about a chap named IndianaJones, which they soon titled Raiders of the Lost Ark.
So there you have it! Eleven of the best bits of trivia about Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It’s a testament to the talent behind this titanic film that we’re still talking about it after all this time, and that we’re anticipating even more fresh Star Wars awesomeness to be released when The Last Jedi premieres this December.